IDF MAG: "Commanders’ best interest is to act according to the law"

Military Advocate General Maj. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit gave his testimony today, Thursday (August 26th), before the Turkel Committee, which is investigating the events of the May 31st Gaza flotilla incident

Date: 26/08/2010, 9:34 AM     Author: Jonatan Urich

Military Advocate General Maj. Gen. Avihai Mandelblit gave his testimony today before the Turkel Committee, and mainly addressed legal aspects of the IDF (Zahal)’s interception of the Turkish “Mavi Marmara” ship on May 31st, the IDF (Zahal)’s findings in its internal investigation of the interception which were published in the “Eiland report”, as well as legal considerations of the policy of the maritime closure.

According to Mandelblit, it is in the “IDF (Zahal) soldiers’ and commanders’ best interest to act according to the law.” He stressed that, “It is impossible to find in a meeting of top military officials in the General Staff or in a meeting of senior Israeli Navy officials that someone would be given instructions to violate international law.” The Military Advocate General (MAG) stressed that following recent intensification of international criticism towards the IDF (Zahal), legal consultation bodies need to work in a more immediate manner with operational forces, and for that purpose, a legal consulting apparatus for operations was established. “Today there is a legal advisor for each division”, he said.

In his testimony, the MAG also addressed the decision to impose a maritime closure on the Gaza Strip, explaining that, “When Hamas calls to destroy the State of Israel, one cannot continue to live alongside the Hamas government as if nothing happened. Legally, it is a matter of sovereignty.” According to him, the aim of the closure was to “economically weaken the enemy, Hamas, in order to put an end to the rockets being fired at Israel. The closure was implemented in order to avoid unnecessary bloodshed so there would be no need for an Israeli military action to stop the rockets.”

Maj. Gen. Mandelblit added that Israel’s naval closure of Gaza, put in place since 2007, is legal. “There never was a port in Gaza. All goods transferred to Gaza were always transferred and are still transferred by land. Therefore, when we imposed the general blockade we didn’t close anything off from a naval perspective. The decision to implement a blockade did not include a maritime closure, because there was no port in Gaza and this would not have been relevant.”

According to Mandelblit, “Until today, the goal is to make sure that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. I cannot imagine that we would ever starve 1.5 million people. This isn’t only because of international law, it is because of who we are as a people. The Hamas government in Gaza wants us to be dragged into a situation in which Israel is viewed in the same way in which they act, which is to use disproportional force in populated areas, but we will not behave like they do.”